The Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore announced that Professor Wang Linfa (Lin-Fa), a Science Leader for the Office of the Chief Executive and Senior Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Australia, has been appointed to lead its Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) signature research program as its director with effect from July 1, 2012. Prof. Wang succeeds founding director, Prof. Duane Gubler, who has retired from administration but will continue his active research program on Dengue.
Prof. Wang is a renowned expert on identifying new and emerging diseases of bat origin. At CSIRO, he has led a project team of more than 20 staff who study new and emerging viruses that affect both humans and animals.
The role of research into emerging infectious diseases has been brought sharply into public profile following large-scale epidemics in Asia and overseas.
Scientists have identified that 75% of emerging human infectious diseases originate from animals, of which bats are increasingly recognized as an important natural reservoir of these diseases. Infectious disease researchers face the challenge of identifying which of the many viruses that are evolving, have the potential to switch host and infect humans.
Said Prof. Ranga Krishnan, Dean of Duke-NUS: "Prof. Wang is an eminent researcher and has provided tremendous leadership in the field. He is especially noted for his work on bat-borne viruses that have the potential to impact human and animal health. Thus, he was the foremost choice for this position for members of the search committee led by Profs. Shirish Shenolikar and Mariano Garcia-Blanco."
One of the key goals of the Duke-NUS Emerging Infectious Diseases Program is to develop a world-class regional infectious disease center for reference and research in the Asia-Pacific region. The aim is to pioneer the development and discovery of new and more effective methods for the rapid characterization, treatment, prevention and control of new and emerging pathogens. The key outcome of the research will be the early identification of new pathogens, from which new diagnostic tests, treatments and control strategies will also be developed.
Prof. Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean of Research at Duke-NUS, explained that Prof. Wang will add further thrust to the existing program: "He will strengthen the expertise presently available in the program where its local and international principal investigators drive various studies in the pathogenesis of emerging infectious diseases of immense concern to Singapore and the region, such as dengue and avian flu. These diseases impact not only national health but also key drivers of national economies."
"I am honored to be chosen to continue the great work of Prof. Gubler who initiated the research program in emerging infectious diseases at Duke-NUS and recruited an outstanding group of young faculty. I look forward to taking the program to its next phase of growth and strength," said Prof. Wang. "In the immediate term, I forsee deeper collaborations and partnerships between our scientists and those at partner organisations like the Singapore General Hospital, National University of Singapore, Tan Tock Seng Hospital; the Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR) research institutes, DSO National Laboratories; the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, the Environmental Health Institute and the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases."
He added, "Notably, our EID Program is working with partners throughout the region on the development of laboratory and epidemiologic capacity, and in the training of scientists and clinicians to make Singapore a viable surveillance and response hub for emerging infectious diseases."
Besides leading the Duke-NUS program, Prof. Wang will continue to play an active role in leading the research in virus-bat biology at CSIRO, especially in the area of One Health within the newly-established Biosecurity Flagship Initiative.
Prof. Wang is internationally renowned for his work. He was approached by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003 to lead an international team that included five institutes from three nations in the global investigation of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus outbreak that year. The team successfully identified bats as the natural reservoir of SARS-like viruses. The finding, published in Science in 2005, led to Prof. Wang and his team receiving the 2006 CSIRO Award for Excellence in Partnership.
In recognition of his seminal contribution to the field of emerging zoonotic viruses, Prof. Wang was elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2010.
Of note as well, the US-produced blockbuster film, Contagion, that depicted a major disease outbreak, was based in part on his work.
Prof. Wang's research profile: http://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/research/faculty/linfa-wang.
About Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore
The Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS) was established in 2005 as a strategic collaboration between the Duke University School of Medicine, located in N.Carolina, USA and the National University of Singapore (NUS). Duke-NUS offers a graduate entry, 4-year M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) training program based on the unique Duke model of education, with one year dedicated to independent study and research projects of a basic science or clinical nature. Duke-NUS also offers M.D/PhD and PhD programs. As a player in Singapore's biomedical community, Duke-NUS has identified five Signature Research Programs: Cancer & Stem Cell Biology, Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders, and Health Services and Systems Research. For more information, please visit www.duke-nus.edu.sg.